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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, March 2008.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
Please click on " * " to skip to each subject in this index:
The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays: *
The Actors' Shakespeare Project in Boston! *
New Plays: *
Taking & Faking Steps! *
Eu Tu, Brute! The Unkindest-Cut of All… *
Is Religious-Theatre Making a Comeback? *
Blasted-Buildings & Doomed-Marriages! *
Let Them Eat Cake? *
"Papa" on Stage! *
No Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction & No Protection for Iraquis Working for the US: *
Singing-Saga of Welsh-Immigrants To the US: *
Inter-Racial Sexual-Frustrations: *
After the Lost-Generation, Love-Generation, Pepsi-Generation, & Generation X, What Next? *
Whatever Became of Little-League Dads? *
Smashed-Fruitcakes & Broken-Dreams! *
Old Plays in Revival: *
Between Rocks & Hard-Places: *
Luke-Warm Play-Revival on a Hot Tin Roof: *
What Kind of Person Names a Dog Little-Sheba Anyway? *
New Musicals: *
Do Catch Ben Katchor's Catchy Cartoonish-Critique! *
Can Dead Boys Sing? *
Old Musicals in Revival: *
Sweet Sounds of Steve Sondheim! *
Other Entertainments/Other Venues: *
Four Nights at the Metropolitan Opera *
Hungry-Hansel & Greedy-Gretel at the Met! *
Pretty Little Manon in a Rosenkavalier Bed-Chamber? *
Welcoming Wagner's Walküre! *
At the New York Theatre Workshop: *
Jessica Blank & April Yvette Thompson's LIBERTY CITY [****] *
At the New Victory Theatre: *
Annie Siddon's RAPUNZEL [****] *
At the Ontological [Hysterical] Theatre: *
Richard Foreman's *
DEEP TRANCE BEHAVIOR IN POTATOLAND (ENGLAND, JAPAN, & NEW YORK) *
At Carnegie's Weill Recital-Hall *
E-Mail from Stockholm: Swedish Plays & Playwrights! *
At the CUNY Grad Center Martin E. Segal Theatre: *
NoPassport Conference: *
DREAMING THE AMERICAS/ *
THE BODY POLITIC IN PERFORMANCE *
If Frequent-Readers have been missing the more-or-less-regular Show-Notes reports, there are Dual-Reasons. Your Scribe has been two-weeks in the Jordanian-Sector of the Holy-Land, photographing such Memorable-Sights as Lot's Cave, Aaron's Staff, The Pope's Tree, the Oldest Map of Jerusalem, & the Place in the River Jordan, where St. John the Baptist immersed Jesus!
And that was almost immediately followed by a Flight—not into Egypt—but into Florida, where the American Theatre Critics were having their annual Mini-Meeting, as heartily-welcomed guests of the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre!
Oddly enough, we did not see any of their admired Shakespeare productions, for the OST—like the NY Shakespeare Festival, San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, & many others—has become an important Regional-Theatre, with a challenging seasonal program of new plays, modern-classics, & of course a sampling of Bardic-Dramas.
The Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays:
The Floridian-Winter is not nearly as severe as it is Up-North, but warm clothes were advisable, nonetheless. But with the varied offerings of the Harriett Lake Festival of New Plays [8-17 February], however, it was never cold inside the OST's four or five theatre-venues.
Although visiting critics from around the United States were each exposed to four or five new scripts, they were asked NOT TO REVIEW what they were seeing! Not that I ever take notes, but it was a relief, for once, just to sit back & enjoy what was happening onstage.
The reason for this odd state of affairs was that we were not seeing fully-rehearsed professional-productions, but semi-staged play-readings. But even keeping-mum about what I saw, I am sure New York & the wider stage of America will be seeing some of these dramas soon with full-production-values.
One of them, in fact, had already been produced in Los Angeles, with an outstanding cast of three, who were still clearly working with the playwright to refine the work. Imagine Strindberg's Miss Julie re-set in the American-Southland!
It works in a way that Josh Logan's The Wisteria Trees did not, when he tried to transplant Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard from Russian-Soil to the Mississippi-Delta…
But what would a Festival & a Critics-Conference be without a Keynote-Address?
John D. Pielmeier—noted for his award-winning drama, Agnes of God—took advantage of his Bully-Pulpit to lambaste some critics. One feels His Pain…
This deeply-felt indictment was followed by a reading of the First-Act of his new—but in-progress—drama, Madonna & Child. I misread the title when I arrived, thinking it might be a Sam Shepherd-Clone: Madonna & Buried Child.
Nothing of the sort! When it has been effectively developed, it may well fascinate audiences even more than watching Amanda Plummer as Agnes!
In any case, Do Not Discard Shabby Old Paintings in Worn Picture-Frames! Who knows what could be hidden behind that dusty image on canvas?
Three of the new scripts were being Work-shopped: Deborah Brevoort's The Blue-Sky Boys, Aloise Stratford's The Unfortunates, & John Minigan's The Castle of Otranto, based on one of the most famous of Gothic-Novels!
[Just consider how many times Mary Shelley's Gothic-novel, Frankenstein, has been adapted for Stage & Screen, with Young Frankenstein packing them in on Broadway right now!]
Among the Play-Readings were the award-winning-playwright Regina Taylor's Magnolia—based on The Cherry Orchard once again!, as well as Stephen Sachs' Miss Julie: Freedom Summer, with a Plantation-Setting.
I did not get to see Kafka's Shorts, by David Karl Lee, but the title alone should be worth the Price of Admission.
Other Entries: Wittenberg, by David Davalos; Erratica, by Reina Hardy; Missing Celia Rose, by Ian August; Trog & Clay, by Michael Vukadinovich, & Alfred Kinsey: A Love Story, by Mike Folie.
Didn't we have an Alfred Kinsey Musical Off-Broadway not so long ago? Or was it merely a Straight-Drama about getting people to talk about their not-so-straight Sexual-Proclivities?
Suzanne O'Donnell has adapted Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I wasn't able to hear this script read aloud. The old movie-version is certainly a Camp-Classic, but the Disney-Animation left a lot to be desired. A LOT!
Oddly enough, the Musical-Theatre-Version of Hunchback—devised by Julie Taymor—was Visual-Dynamite, but it has never been premiered in New York.
It was shown for months in a Purpose-Built-Theatre in Berlin, with such remarkable stage-machinery that there seems no Manhattan venue other than Radio City Music Hall that could accommodate this dazzling show.
Having run its course in Berlin, Hunchback was soon replaced by a Monster-Enlargement of Blue Man Group's TUBES, still running down at Astor-Place in a tiny, tiny venue…
Maybe Suzanne O'Donnell has figured out how to stage Hugo's Gothic-Masterpiece without complicated machinery? Perhaps as a Parody… Oh, not to worry: this seems to be a Monologue or something Low-Budget.
The assembled American Theatre Critics did get to see one reviewable-play, Michael Hollinger's Opus, which had previously won an ATCA-Steinberg New-Play prize. Or one of those prizes we are always giving to encourage the creation of New-Plays…
Of course it is easy enough to note that Shakespeare didn't need any New Play Prizes, or Guggeheim Grants, or Ford Foundation Stipends to sit down at the writing-desk & dash off Pericles or Timon of Athens. These are not very good dramas, but he wrote them anyway, without a MacArthur Genius Award to spur him onward.
I admired Hollinger's deft interweaving in Opus of the threads & strings which bind together members of a string-quartet, especially when a loose string or two can damage the wished-for harmonies. The stressed-out quartet has only a week to prepare for a White House Concert!
The classical-music sound-track was effective, but I would have loved to have heard the actor/musicians actually play their instruments, rather than merely mime: Look! He's not doing the fingering! Nor the actual bowing, either!
The Big-News about Opus was that it featured CS Lee of Showtime's Dexter. He was every bit as good as the rest of the cast!
The role of Alfred Kinsey was read by James Kiberd, who was identified as Trevor Dillon, once a Big-Draw on All My Children. As Your Scribe has to write during the day, he unfortunately has missed this & all other Soap-Operas, alas.
Quite as interesting as the new plays was Harriett Lake herself, a fabulous raconteuse, with many a story to tell. The Lounge-Bar in the OST's Lowndes Shakespeare Center is named for this remarkable Patron of the Arts!
The visiting critics were also hosted by the youth-oriented Orlando Repertory Theatre, which was offering a lively staging of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. We also admired the artworks—especially the Folk-Art & Outsider-Art—at the charming Mennello Museum.
We were nowhere near the Gargantuan-Complex of Theme-Parks that is DisneyWorld, nor could we take time to visit the Universal Studios Theme-Park, or even an attraction that seems to be modeled on the so-called Holy-Land, featuring Biblical-Sites-&-Events. Could this be Central-Florida's Oberammergau!
Friendly & enthusiastic Patrons of the Orlando Shakespeare Festival greeted their ATCA guests at the beautiful lakeside home of Major-Patrons, John & Rita Lowndes, with Ken & Trisha Margeson co-hosting.
Your Scribe was especially grateful to Scottie Campbell—Marketing & Public-Relations—& the OST staff for all their kindnesses in making sure we all had an Excellent-Adventure in Orlando. Not to neglect a Big Thank-You to Betsy Maupin, beloved critic-colleague, who surveys the local Theatre-Scene for the Orlando Sentinel.
[I just got a letter from the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau urging me & my fellow-scribes to return to Orlando "in the very near future." Next time, The Holy-Land, perhaps? And the Fire-Museum, which never seems to be open? Four great Vintage-Fire-Engines inside!]
The Actors' Shakespeare Project in Boston!
One of my favorite critic-colleagues, Marianne Evett, came to the Orlando Shakespeare Festival not only to check out the OST's productions, but also—with her ever-supportive husband—to promote their son's new Actors' Shakespeare Project in Boston.
Shakespeare-smitten young Ben Evett created this adventurous-ensemble back in 2003. Now in its fourth Boston season, it's offering a program of The Scottish Play, Henry V, The Tempest, & King John. As they do not yet have a theatre of their own, they find venues in which they can develop their stagings, each in a unique way.
King John will be mounted in the Cathedral Church of Saint Paul, for instance. Mary Baker Eddy's Mother-Church of Christ, Scientist might be just right for The Merchant of Venice, with its celebrated "Quality of Mercy" oration by Portia!
Ben Evett is staging King John, but last season he played the title-role in Hamlet. He is a ten-year-veteran of Cambridge's American Repertory Theatre, founded by Dean Robert Brustein, when he departed Yale for more friendly faculty-colleagues at Harvard.
For more information about ASP—programs, productions, or even possible employment—log-on to www.actorsshakepeareproject.org or just phone 617-547-1982!
David Mamet's NOVEMBER [****]
Buchan/Hitchcock/Barlow's ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S THE 39 STEPS [****]
David Ives' NEW JERUSALEM [****]
Richard Nelson's CONVERSATIONS IN TUSCULUM [**]
George Packer's BETRAYED [****]
Allan Knee's THE JAZZ AGE [***]
Brett Leonard's UNCONDITIONAL [***]
Brooke Berman's HUNTING & GATHERING [***]
Gina Gionfriddo's US DRAG [***]
Ethan Coen's ALMOST AN EVENING [***]
David Hay's THE MADDENING TRUTH [***]
Mick Gordon & AC Grayling's GRACE [***]
Jez Butterworth's PARLOUR SONG [**]
Mike Leigh's TWO THOUSAND YEARS [**]
Ian Rowlands' NEW WORLDS [***]
Kathleen Clark's SECRETS OF A SOCCER MOM [***]
Kevin Brofsky's CLAYMONT [**]
Sarah Hollister's SISTERS' DANCE [*]
Charles L. Mee Jr's PARADISE PARK [*]
If you are offended by the F-word—especially when its frequent repetition takes the place of real wit & sharp-satire—you may be disappointed in David Mamet's attempt to parody a Sub-Bush-Species of President, about to depart the White-House without an Enduring-Legacy or a Presidential-Library.
Mamet's month-specific-title, November, not only celebrates the Election-Season, but also the Annual Ritual of Pardoning the Thanksgiving-Turkey, supposedly destined for the White House Table. Something might have been said about Pardoning the Troops trapped in the Middle-East, but Nathan Lane's Do-Nothing Commander-in-Chief, Charlie Smith, did not make that mistake.
He is baffled by his rock-bottom National-Unpopularity, but his Closest-Confidant—dryly played by an elegant Dylan Baker—has to point out that his Administration has been a Disaster.
All may not yet be lost, however, if his ingenious speech-writer, Clarice Bernstein, can draft him an Obamaesque-Oration. Wonderfully embodied by Laurie Metcalf, her price is a Gay-Marriage in the White House with her Lady-love!
Joe Mantello staged this slight farce with high-octane energy, in Scott Pask's handsome evocation of the Oval-Office, complete with that Historic-Desk, recently the centerpiece of a Nicholas Cage who-dunnit.
Taking & Faking Steps!
Maria Aitken has directorial-credit for Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps, but the visual-ingenuity of this fast-moving & often hilarious production surely owes a great deal to rehearsal-interactions of its original London cast, as well as to the genius of set & costume designer Peter McKintosh. In fact, the Broadway program credits Toby Segwick as creator of the "Original-Movement."
The idea of reworking a famed Hitchcock film—itself an ingenious visualization of John Buchan's classic mystery-thriller—Live-Onstage, with a cast of four was certainly a Challenge. But one that has succeeded with amazingly comic results. Cheers for the Foursome: Arnie Burton, Charles Edwards, Jennifer Ferrin, & Cliff Saunders!
Eu Tu, Brute! The Unkindest-Cut of All…
If you remember Mark Antony's Oration in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, you may well believe that the Rhetorical-Level of Communication in the dying-days of the Roman-Republic was considerably more Potent & Interesting than the flat bromides uttered by the likes of Brutus, Cassius, & even Cicero in Richard Nelson's Conversations in Tusculum.
Even Brutus—no match for Cicero—is more compelling in Shakespeare's drama, than he is here in Nelson's Imaginary-Roman-Countryside.
And just forget about the Bard's Imperial-Roman-Sequel, Antony & Cleopatra, for, although Brutus & Co refer to her presence in Rome, Cleopatra unfortunately makes no appearance at his Country-Villa.
Cleo VII does not even come to pay a Courtesy-Call on Brutus' wife Porcia—Portia is an Elizabethan-spelling, apparently—who is the politically-dangerous daughter of the late, illustrious Statesman & Defender of the Republic, Cato, who committed Suicide, confronted with the Imperial-Ambitions of Caesar…
[Joseph Addison's tragedy of Cato was George Washington's favorite drama: he used to bore his Cabinet-Members by taking them to the John Street Theatre—or was it the Park?—to savor the high-flown rhetoric that such Historic-Heroes inspire.]
Richard Nelson has by now written many plays & won many awards. But his is not a Name-To-Conjure-With, as are, say, such names as Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, & even Neil Simon. This is unfortunate, considering the Ambitious-Themes he often essays…
Nelson's new Conversations seems occasioned by the apparent dangers to the American-Republic posed by the Imperial-Ambitions of the Bush-Presidency & the Presidential-Enablers.
While it is true that Julius Caesar & his nephew, Octavius-Augustus, based their power on the Roman-Legions, they lacked the Might of what former Commander-in-Chief Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us about: the Military-Industrial-Complex.
Despite the severe limitation on Press-Tickets—one to a critic, for those not in the First-Ranks of Drama-Criticism—there were many empty-seats after the Intermission. Some who remained were seen to be Dozing-Off…
From the conversations Nelson imagines the fabled Roman-Senator-Orator Cicero to be able to conduct in this talky-play, it is difficult to understand why & how Cicero achieved a Rhetorical-Reputation that has lasted over Two-Millennia. To discover why, you'd have to read Cicero's actual orations: Et delenda Carthago…
At one point, Cicero is reading to Brutus a few lines of an Essay he is writing—I think it was some high-mindedness about The Good or Goodness in General. But Brutus wants him to use his pen instead to dash-off a quick note to Caesar, so he & Cassius can urge Julius to Preserve the Republic.
Even though Shakespeare's Soothsayer warned Caesar: Beware the Ides of March!, thanks to the Bard—not Richard Nelson—we all now know what happened on March 15. [This Dark-Date also used to be US Income-Tax-Filing day!]
Cicero jots the note for Brutus. Then he dips again into his Writing-Box, taking out a paper on which he has listed all the New-Words he has introduced into Latin, in order to describe the previously-indescribable. Unfortunately, In-Terminable is not among them. What should it have been: Sans Terminum?
Nelson staged this Public-Theatre premiere himself, drawing on such talents as Maria Tucci, Brian Dennehy, Aidan Quinn, Joe Grifasi, Gloria Reuben, & David Strathairn.
Is Religious-Theatre Making a Comeback?
Although David Ives did his best to make a justly-forgotten & previously-unproduced Mark Twain comedy, Is He Dead?, into a viable contemporary Stage-Vehicle—despite the desperate comedic-efforts of Norbert Leo Butz—it has been forced to Close at the intimate Lyceum Theatre.
Fortunately, Ives will not vanish from the Great White Way, as his impressive drama, New Jerusalem, is moving from the CSC to Broadway. This challenging exploration of Religious-Tolerance—or its lack—in High-Renaissance Holland is subtitled: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza at Talmud Torah Congregation: Amsterdan, July 27, 1656.
Known to some as "The Lens-grinder of Amsterdam," Spinoza remains one of the most original thinkers about the Cosmos, the World, & Our Place & Duties in both. He was Excommunicated from his Amsterdam Congregation, so you already know how Ives' play turns-out!
But the Reasons for his expulsion & his Arguments against being forever severed from his beloved Teacher & Mentor, the Chief Rabbi of Amsterdam—a magisterial Richard Easton—are the fascinating substance of this somewhat Ecclesiastical-Drama.
Walter Bobbie has strongly staged a fine cast, including the undaunted young Spinoza of Jeremy Strong & the still-strong, if aged, Fyvush Finkel as the thoughtful old Elder of Talmud Torah, Gaspar Rodriguez Ben Israel.
But consider the Religious-Dilemma of an educated young man whose Jewish-father is a laid-back Liberal, lovingly tolerating his Waspish-Wife, whose academic-lectures are Verbal-Frontal-Attacks on the Idea of God & the Rituals of Religion in general.
In AC Grayling & Mick Gordon's family-drama, Grace, Lynne Redgrave plays Grace, the Uncompromising-Atheist college-prof, whose son is becoming an Anglican-Priest!
Grace is fairly graceless about this Moral-Choice: Is he trying metaphorically to Disgrace her in front of her students?
Redgrave is interesting in this unrewarding role & play. But, if you are one of those Christianity-Watchers who believe God died long ago in the Anglican-Communion, the Major-Dramatic-Question posed here can be of little consequence.
Still, if Religious-Beliefs continue to fascinate you, Ethan Coen's playlet-series, Almost an Evening, may be just what you've been looking-for. Although it is not quite a Full-Evening. One of his somewhat Sophomoric-Riffs presents what must be Two-Versions of God.
F. Murray Abraham plays a furious Old-Testament Jehovah in a Long White Beard, with a Long White Gown to match. He uses the F-word almost as much as David Mamet's desperate US President.
Coen's Raging-God makes it very clear that The Ten Commandments were not Ten Fucking Suggestions! He notes that he did not make a Commandment against Body-Piercing—especially not Rings in Vaginas!—because who would think of doing such a thing!
Ethan Coen is, of course, one-half of the Coen Bros, whose No Country for Old Men has recently won so many Prizes & Awards. He & his brother write better screen-plays, but such is the Magic of the Coen-Name that this Sold-Out Limited-Run in a Tiny-Venue will soon be Translated to the Wider-World of Commercial-Theatre!
Neil Pepe—artistic-director of the David Mamet-inspired Atlantic Theatre—has deftly staged a cast including not only the always-dynamic F. Murray [a beloved professorial-colleague at Brooklyn College some seasons ago!] but also Mark Linn-Baker, Jordan Lage, Elizabeth Marvel, & Jonathan Cake—whose amazing Physical-Fitness has been on display at Lincoln Center in Cymbeline, as well as at the Atlantic in the current Jez Butterworth Parlour Song!
Blasted-Buildings & Doomed-Marriages!
Jez Butterworth seems almost a House-Playwright at the Atlantic, which has also mounted his Mojo, The Night Heron, & Leavings. Neil Pepe has staged Parlour Song with a brisk pace that heightens some Psychological-Puzzles in the play:
Why is Ned [Chris Bauer] afraid to sleep because he might have That Terrible Dream again? Is his frustrated wife Joy [Emily Mortimer] really stealing all his stuff? Why can't they have Satisfactory-Sex?
Has Ned really himself squirreled-away all those objects he suggests his wife has made Vanish? Why is his Best-Friend [the admirable Jonathan Cake!] sleeping with Joy when Ned is away blowing-up Doomed-Buildings?
Is there some kind of Visual-Metaphor at work here? Is it that Demolitions-Experts cannot build a Firm-Foundation for Family-Life?
The Atlantic production opened with a rapid black-&-white film-montage of buildings collapsing after dynamite-charges have been set-off inside. This was amazing! It could have made a Dynamic-Documentary, an Evening-in-Itself!
In fact, the subsequent saga of blighted marriage was Downhill, compared to the Explosions. The sudden Revelation of all the Stolen-Objects, stacked & piled variously, recalled the setting for I Am My Own Wife…
Let Them Eat Cake?
Jonathan Cake has had a lot of exposure this season: Three shows thus far! He is very fit, even helping the out-of-condition Ned attempt a Regimen of Exercises. He also exudes Male-Sexuality. Seated in the Parlour, in an arrogant, cocky pose—legs spread wide-apart, pelvis thrust forward—he suggests a Revision of that Old-Saying: You can't have your Cake & eat it, too! Why not? As they say: Piece of Cake!
Mike Leigh also offers an English-Family-Drama in Two Thousand Years. The title must refer to the Jewish-Diaspora, ousted from Palestine by the Romans two-thousand years ago. But this quarrelsome London-Jewish-Family—composed of various family-stereotypes not the exclusive province of Jews—is not waiting for "Next Year in Jerusalem." Holocaust-Survivor Grandpa went to Palestine—soon to become the State of Israel—where his unhappy daughters were born on a Kibbutz!
So? They are in London now: why can't these people stop insulting each other? This aimless, bad-tempered wrangling makes one long for the clear-cut Jewish-Family-Strife of Clifford Odets' Awake & Sing, recently revived on Broadway…
"Papa" on Stage!
This season seems to be shaping-up as an Ernest Hemingway Celebration. His never-before-produced play, The Fifth Column, has just been mounted by the Mint Theatre, while the Keen Company has put him onstage in David Hay's The Maddening Truth!
Then there's Allan Knee's The Jazz Age, presented by The Lost Generation, over at 59E59. This three-hander surveys the tormented marriage of F. Scott Fitzgerald & Zelda, with the added-attraction of Ernest Hemingway to talk-tough to the alcoholic & self-destructive Scott.
Although we have already had Zelda on Broadway, some seasons ago, I thought Knee's play effectively-encapsulated some biographical-details of interest to fans of both Fitzgerald & Hemingway. Moreover, I thought that Dana Watkins, PJ Sosko, & Amy Rutberg were also effective as Scottie, Papa, & Zelda.
[Some colleagues who went to see the show on my recommendation later said it was "the worst play they had ever seen," nor were they enthusiastic about the performances… Go Figure!]
In any case, the Tamara de Limpicka Synthetic-Cubism style used in the Jazz Age program & poster visuals was striking & elegant.
There was also a certain elegance to Carl Forsman's staging of The Maddening Truth, which revealed the Secret-Love-Affair between Laurance Rockefeller & one of Hemingway's most famous wives, the brilliant War-Correspondent Martha Gellhorn!
Lisa Emery was a vibrant but self-questioning Gellhorn, with Richard Bekins as the refined Rockefeller brother. [Don't ask about Winthrop Rockefeller's Secret-Sex-Life, when in New York, away from his Governorship down in Arkansas. Not to mention the sudden death of New York's former Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, atop his young mistress…]
[Gellhorn & Hemingway's son was in one of my English-Lit classes at Stanford. The Prof—showing-off—asked him where his dad was at the moment. He was embarrassed but said Hemingway had just been given two ears & a tail of a bull killed by one of his favorite Matadors in Spain!]
No Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction & No Protection for Iraquis Working for the US:
One of the very few new dramas to concentrate on Major-Problems created by the War-Lovers & other Neo-Cons in the increasingly Disastrous Bush-Administration is George Packer's troubling Betrayed.
Of course the Trust of the American-People has been betrayed by the multitude of Lies about Weapons-of-Mass-Destruction & other excuses to attack the People of Iraq. And the Dedication & Courage of Our Exhausted-Troops in Iraq have also been betrayed.
But Packer's play is not about these insidious-betrayals. Instead, it concerns the indifferent ways in which our Department of State, our Department of Defense—it used more accurately to be called The War Department—& American-Officials & Authorities on the ground in Iraq have failed to Aid or to Protect those Iraquis who have helped our Military-Operations & Democracy-Building, especially as Translators.
The Life-Threatening & Frequently-Fatal Risks they have run—not only for the American-Troops, but also in hopes of a new & better life for Iraq—have generally not been honored or respected, especially when they have begged for Protection, or even Visas to escape to America.
This Packer documents in terms of valiant but often-abandoned Individuals. Pippin Parker has staged for the Culture-Project.
Singing-Saga of Welsh-Immigrants To the US:
Something-Entirely-Different was briefly offered by a group of talented young students from Wales' Coleg y Drindod, or Trinity College, when they performed New Worlds, Ian Rowlands's saga-in-song of poverty-stricken Welsh-Immigrants' brave crossing to America in 1818, to settle in Ohio.
Unlike today—when both would-be Immigrant Iraquis & Hispanics are not so welcome in the US—in the early days of Our American Democracy, the Welsh, the Scots, the Irish, & many others were needed to people the land & make it yield bountifully.
The descendants of New World's Welsh are still living & thriving in Ohio, where the Trinity student-performers are bound, to share this story of that long-ago journey to the fertile valleys of Ohio. [Welsh also settled in Wisconsin, where their distinctive Musical-Culture was still kept alive when I was a UW student!]
Playwright Ian Rowlands lacks the polished skills of, say, an Emlyn Williams—remember Woman of Dolwyn, with Dame Edith Evans, Welsh to the core—or Dylan Thomas: A Child's Christmas in Wales. But Rowlands has integrated saga & song effectively: Imagine hearing Amazing Grace sung in Welsh!
Quite a different note in Human-Interactions is struck by Brett C. Leonard's Unconditional, given an innovative-staging by LAByrinth Theatre down at the Public-Theatre.
Its most-astonishing moment opens the show, as an infuriated Black-Man lynches the White-Man who has just fired him. This also ends the play, so the corporate-personnel-officer who has to reduce company-staff to increase Productivity in these Bad-Times gets quite a work-out with handcuffs, duct-tape around his body & face, &, of course, that Hangman's-Knot.
[This kind of Stage-Effect can be risky, even in rehearsal. I still shudder at the memory of that guy slipping on the chair, when the Trick Slip-Knot in the Noose was supposed to give-way, & did not.]
Anyway & anyhow, Leonard provides a variety of more or less unsatisfying Inter-Racial Sexual-Couplings, but this is not so much about what used to be called Miscegenation, as about Unhappy-People looking for Love & Understanding. And not finding it…
It is nominally set in New York City, but the scene could be almost anywhere that Staff & Inventories are being drastically reduced. Mark Wing-Davey has staged a fine cast including Isiah Whitlock, jr, Chris Chalk, Yolanda Ross, & David Warshofsky.
In addition to the astonishing Lynching, the production is distinguished by the director & the designer Mark Wendland's decision to place the bulk of the audience at either end of the Shiva Theatre—you could call this Sitting-Shiva?—with sliding partitions in-between opening & closing to reveal or conceal subsequential-scenes! This permitted a rapid-fire filmic-flow of action!
After the Lost-Generation, Love-Generation, Pepsi-Generation, & Generation X, What Next?
Several other new plays also dealt with aspects of How We Live Now. Brooke Berman's Hunting & Gathering, like Unconditional, was set in New York City!
But what a difference, with its Post-Teens, both Aimless & Focussed, house-sitting & squatting, trying to Find Meaning, Good-Relationships, & Centeredness. Not least interesting was the cast, including Keira Naughton, Michael Chernus, Jermey Shamos, & Mamie Gummer, whose beautiful & talented Mother was not mentioned in her Playbill bio! Leigh Silverman staged.
Gina Gionfriddo's US Drag could be viewed as the flip-side—or the Darker-Side—of Hunting & Gathering, as its aimless, pointless, valueless, confused, alienated Young New-Yorkers are not the Conventional-Stereotypes of TV Post-Teens.
In the kinetic, frenetic production at the Acorn, staged by Trip Cullman, young women are endangered by a potentially murderous Slasher named Ed. Or is he Fictive, Imaginary? Are they wounding themselves, possibly to attract attention & interest?
Initially, I was baffled, not only because short-scenes swiftly intercut with other short-scenes, but also because I could not relate to the various characters: Who were they? Why were we watching them?
I had much admired Gionfriddo's brilliant After Ashley, premiered at the Humana Festival & later badly-translated to the Vineyard Theatre in Manhattan. But this Drag had me puzzled: Nothing to do with Drag-Shows or Drag-Races. More like a Slow-Drag. The infamous Wm. Burroughs is the apparent-inspiration for the title…
I should have read the inside-cover info in the program. Gionfriddo is a member of the stageFARM: "We make plays for play-haters." [bf & italics added: Ed] Also: They are "committed to plays & playwrights with arresting voices who can engage our restless generation." [bf & italics added: Ed]
Moreover: "For a generation weaned on the immediacy of MySpace & YouTUBE, the theatre is often a runner-up in the Entertainment-Race—alienating people with its Cost, Pretense, & Elitism." [Caps, bf, & italics added: Ed]
My guest told me that she now has a Wall-Street-type room-mate rather like the Angry Young Wall-Streeter who cannot get Connected. All that Income, but No Loving… He's even giving free-rent to two sexy young fillies [Tanya Fischer & Lisa Joyce] who have promised to produce sexy-parties in his apartment.
In fact, everyone in US Drag is trying to Get-Connected somehow, but Without A Clue…
It used to be said that you will never find Love if you do not first learn how to Love Yourself. Is That where it's at? That these seemingly-intelligent young people really neither like nor understand themselves?
At 79, I must be so far Out of It that I cannot recognize Gionfriddo's characters, not even as former-students. Yet younger friends tell me they do connect with her New Lost-Generationals. For that matter, the quarreling Jews in Two Thousand Years—who seemed to me possibly Anti-Semitic-Stereotypes: "Is this good for the Jews?"—register as Very True to Life for some Jewish friends: "Oh, I know those people. They are just like my family!'
Do we go to the Theatre to identify with the characters on the stage? Is the stageFARM going to wean younger-audiences away from their Blogs, Websites, & e-mails, as well as from MySpace & YouTUBE with plays like US Drag?
Whatever Became of Little-League Dads?
Secrets of a Soccer Mom—Kathleen Clark's amusing three-hander—is not set in New York City! But it could have been sited in the suburbs of Long Island or New Jersey. I especially admired Deborah Sonnenberg's resourceful Lynn, but both Nancy Ringham & Caralyn Kozlowski—as Nancy & Alison—were interesting as they gradually unveiled their troubled psyches & failing marriages.
Their kids are playing Sunday-Soccer—somewhere out in the audience—while the Moms have to decide whether to beat the kids at their own game, or let them win to make them feel good about themselves.
The Kids, unseen, are OK, but the Men, also unseen, are Self-Centered, Thoughtless-Jerks. What else is New? Judith Ivey staged. This is at the Snapple-Theatre, where that bottled-beverage is a Prominent-Feature of the Lobby-Décor! There are also T-Shirts!
Both Claymont & Sisters' Dance are also Family-Problems-Oriented. They are two of a trio of premieres presented by the Emerging Artists Theatre. This is their 14th Season, but—even though we gave them a Drama Desk Award Nomination last year—I was not aware of their Mission of encouraging Playwrights to work with Designers, Directors, & Actors throughout the Producing-Process.
Katie Rosin is their Marketing-Director & PR, so she should get credit for their publicity, especially the handsome poster & promo-cards! They are real Collectibles! Both shows had substantial-settings as well, even though their venue was the third-basement-level of the Baruch Center for the Performing Arts, down on Lex & 25th.
The Shadow of Tennessee Williams was hovering somewhere over both plays. Kevin Brofsky's "artistic" teen-ager—the "confused" & somewhat "Nellie" Neil, develops a crush on an attractive college-dropout, Dallas—who is planning to flee to Canada to avoid the Vietnam-Draft.
Dallas' overbearing, annoying, interfering Mother—who has parked him with Neil's family—is desperate to get him married-off to a previously-rejected but petulant-possibility, Sharon.
Neil's immense Abstract-Expressionist-Sculpture of a Metaphoric-Claymont—appropriately made of clay—is rejected for the High-School Art-Show, which might have led to a college art-scholarship for Neil…
Dallas helps Neil to feel good about himself, but this is not exactly Tea & Sympathy, nor yet The Silver Cord… But Neil's awful sculpture would certainly have been the Hit of the current Whitney Biennial!
Sarah Hollister has been reading too much Tennessee Williams, but her Sisters' Dance also has overtones of the current revival of Crimes of the Heart. Mother—who has just died, but who is visibly still hanging around the kitchen of the Old-Homestead—fortunately has no lines.
Hollister has given most of them to the flamboyant Fleur—isn't that a Vintage-Williams name?—who has just returned from yet another falling-in-love-with-Long-Distance-Fling with an Abusive-Lover. She wasn't on-hand for the Funeral!
Their quixotic Mother has left the house to Fleur, but the six-hundred-acres of beans to her mousey, angry sister, Alice. Or was it the Other-Way-Around?
In any case, the Dead-Maternal-Hand has arranged matters so the Sisters have to deal with each other. Alice's long-time taciturn quasi-boyfriend, Roy, loves beans & has cared for the bean-fields for years, all the while neglecting to tie-the-knot with Alice.
Roy loves beans so much that their gaseous by-products are the topic of some forced folk-humor, including: Beans, beans, the Musical Fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot…
Too bad Tom Stoppard could not be working with these Emerging-Artists.
Smashed-Fruitcakes & Broken-Dreams!
But not even Stoppard & Tennessee Williams combined could have made something memorable of Charles L. Mee, jr's Paradise Park. In all fairness, I have much admired Mee's reworking of Classic-Drama in Big Love—not to be confused with that TV Mormon-Exploitation—as well as his fantasy on the Life & Art of Joseph Cornell.
But the Signature-Theatre-Season of Mee plays has been less than rewarding. Queens Boulevard, for instance, did not make me want to rush out there on a Metro-bus to see what I'd been missing.
As for Paradise Park—even if it is a Coney-Island side-show fun-ride Metaphor for American-Family-Alienation—onstage it is messy, shrill, diffuse, obtuse, & not very amusing. Veanne Cox was especially shrill…
Perhaps the best moments occurred when scores of Superman-Dolls cascaded from the ceiling & when Fruit-Cakes were propelled, via a giant-sling, across the Peter J. Sharp Memorial Stage to smash into a mirror on the opposite side!
Signature may be running-out of famous Living-American-Playwrights to celebrate with their Signature-Programming-Device of Entire Seasons of L.A.P. Masterworks. After Miller, Albee, Wilson, Linney, & Blessing, what…? [The estimable Rom Linney is in danger of being remembered more for his talented daughter, Laura, than for The Sorrows of Frederick, fine as it is.]
Old Plays in Revival:
Wm. Shakespeare's "SCOTTISH PLAY" [****]
Sam Beckett's HAPPY DAYS [***]
Tennessee Williams' CAT ON A HAT TIN ROOF [****]
William Inge's COME BACK, LITTLE SHEBA [*****]
Beth Henley's CRIMES OF THE HEART [***]
Although Shakespeare's "Scottish Play" is his shortest textually, resourceful contemporary-directors have managed to drag it out—not so much with long, Pinterian-Pauses, but with artful Imagery & Mime.
Rupert Goold has certainly achieved this goal in his Chichester-Festival staging, brought from its London-Triumphs to BAM in Brooklyn. After that sold-out exposure, it is moving to Broadway!
This move is not dictated so much by the excellence of the Bardic-Text—which abounds in Memorable-Phrases: What bloody man is this?; We met them on a day of success; Boil, boil, toil & trouble; A little water clears us of this deed; She should have died hereafter; Is this a dagger I see before me?; Tomorrow & tomorrow & tomorrow; Out damned spot…
No indeed! Patrick Stewart is playing Macbeth: that is quite enough to attract his many Star-Trek fans to the box-office! Nor will they be disappointed.
Although the Thane of Cawdor & Glamis should be a comparatively young Seeker-after-Power, Stewart brings a vibrant-athleticism to a role even he admits he should have essayed when he was much younger. [Lord Olivier said the same about this challenging-role, as well as of Othello, but when he was in the bloom of Actorial-Youth, he didn't have enough Life-Experience to do the roles Justice.]
Kate Fleetwood is almost his match as a power-driven consort who would be Queen of Scotland at any price. The rest of the cast is generally effective in this bare-bones Modernist staging, designed by Anthony Ward.
Stewart & Company are to be thanked for some new line-readings of famous speeches, which illuminate the Ideas & Passions in powerful new ways. Shakespeare's greatest plays always have new riches, new depths to reveal to inspired directors, designers, & performers!
Most visually-striking was presenting the Three Witches as Battlefield-Nurses: Watch Out! You don't want an injection from these Care-Givers! They continue to haunt the proceedings, even serving at the Macbeths' Doomed Banquo-Banquet!
Between Rocks & Hard-Places:
Sam Beckett's possibly too-frequently-revived Happy Days—or is the Problem that Your Scribe travels too-widely, to too many Theatre-Festivals, where he sees too many stagings of O les beaux jours?—is a fairly slight, One-Joke Sly-Social-Commentary on the eternally-disastrous Human-Estate.
What made this over-designed Royal National Theatre of Great Britain production worth importing briefly to BAM was the outstanding performance of Fionna Shaw as the Ever-Optimistic Winnie.
Shaw was passionately magisterial in Winnie's determination to see only the Best in her Appalling-Situation, as rocks rose about her body, Engulfing her up to her Neck.
Designer Tom Pye filled the stage with what looked like a section of the Grand-Canyon, which director Deborah Warner effectively used as a Visual-Metaphor to magnify the effect of Winnie's Increasing-Isolation, not only from Objective-Reality but even from her Partner, the pathetic Willie of Tom Potter.
[How many Winnies have I seen? Was Madelaine Renaud the first? In French, of course… Nor do I forget Mrs. Peter Brook—Natasha Parry, also in French—as Winnie in the Peter Brook Production of Happy Days that traveled to Sofia, in distant Bulgaria, where I saw it with baffled Bulgarian-Critics.]
Be sure that another revival of Waiting for Godot is waiting-in-the-Wings. And isn't it about time for a trendy revival of End-Game?
Luke-Warm Play-Revival on a Hot Tin Roof:
Debbie Allen has dynamically staged the current revival of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Broadhurst. It features an All-African-American cast, powerfully led by James Earl Jones, in the definitive Burl-Ives Big-Daddy role.
The Confrontation-Scene between Big Daddy & his alcoholic ex-athlete, ex-sportscaster-son, Brick [Terrence Howard], is worth the Price of Admission alone!
Although Anika Noni Rose—as Maggie the Cat—bristles with energy, she is at times too much to take: small wonder Brick cannot stand her. Phylicia Rashad's larger-than-life Big Mama would also drive a man to drink, but, near the close of this Metaphor-Rich drama, she is painfully Vulnerable.
As for Brick's scheming, unctuous brother, Gooper [Giancarlo Esposito] & his even more Cartoon-Caricatured wife, Mae [Lisa Arrindell Anderson], even Williams himself might have cringed to see these Creatures of Comedy-Melodrama onstage.
Tennessee's Bad-Language—removed from the script for the Original-Broadway-Production, to avoid offense to Manhattan-Theatre-Goers of that Benighted-Time, when even the Implication of a possible Homoerotic-Relationship between Brick & his Best-Buddy, Skeeter was a Real-Shocker—has been Restored, to no discernable-advantage to the Powers of the play.
What no Director dares to do, however, is to excise the excessive-references in the play-text to Maggie being like a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Not to Overlook the Overload of references to Gooper & Mae's "No-Neck Monsters."
This was not one of Williams' most poetic or subtle evocations of Life in the Old/New South…
Cat works very well with an All-Black cast. Even Historically, a Black Plantation-Owner is not an Anachronism, as there were indeed Black Plantation-Owners, with Black-Slaves, before the Civil-War. You just do not read much about them…
What Kind of Person Names a Dog Little-Sheba Anyway?
Although the admirable S. Epatha Merkerson is both touching & troubling as Lola—in Wm. Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba—this Color-Blind Cross-Cultural casting is a bit odd, when the drama is nominally set in 1950 in the Midwest.
What was then often regarded as Miscegenation would have made Doc & Lola an even more Outcast-Couple than Inge originally imagined them: as Mismatched-Marrieds, in an Unhappy-Union, owing to an Unforeseen-Pregnancy. Shotgun-Weddings do not make for Marital-Fulfillment, so no wonder Doc drinks…
Kevin Anderson is good as Doc, but who wants a Spinal-Adjustment from an Alcoholic-Chiropractor?
As with Williams' over-abundance of Cat-References, Inge's Invocation of the Little-Dog-Lost Sheba-Mantra-Metaphor becomes tiresome after several Iterations.
Zoe Kazan is very good as Doc & Lola's sexy Star-Boarder, who swings with the Star-Athlete—to Doc's shock—but plans to marry the coat-&-tie guy who will provide her with everything that a Middle-Western Married-Woman Needs.
How would Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart work with an All-Black-Cast? Not quite as well as with Whites…
The reason being that those Shocking-Photographs show the White-Girl Attempted-Murder-Suspect having Intimate-Relations with a young Black boy who is obviously not Her Husband, whom she has just shot in the stomach—although she was aiming for His Heart—because she Doesn't Like His Looks.
Even in Today's South, reversing the Races wouldn't have quite the same Social & Cultural Outrage-Quotient. In fact, the Social-Circumstances of this Modern Southern-Gothic Family-Drama are such that it wouldn't work all that well re-set in Phoenix, Arizona, Madison, Wisconsin, or Santa Barbara, California…
Some Critic-Colleagues dissed Kathleen Turner's direction, insisting that she had effectively stifled some of the comedy implicit in the Characters & Situations. I thought it was actually very amusing, if all-too-close to Formula-Family-Caricatures.
But that is Henley's Problem, rather than her Interpreters' fault. Lily Rabe, Sarah Paulson, & Jennifer Dundas were very convincing in this crazed household.
ADDING MACHINE [****]
THE SLUG BEARERS OF KAYROL ISLAND [****]
NEXT TO NORMAL [***]
Disney's THE LITTLE MERMAID [****]
Based on Elmer Rice's American-Experiment in European-Expressionism, The Adding-Machine is one of those Iconic-Dramas which has won its place in Theatre-History, even if it is seldom staged.
So the opportunity to see a Musical-Version of this strangely Mechanistic-Vision of Human-Life was not to be missed! In the event, it was an astounding Revelation: this is a remarkable new kind of Music-Theatre, with a starkly-severe text & powerful score, recalling both the Era in which the play was created, as well as echoing some of the Hysteria of Our Own Times.
New York Critics have generally hailed Adding Machine—the The of Rice's Original has been surgically-removed—as The Best New Musical, this season's equivalent of Spring Awakening, only more Powerful, Passionate, & Relevant to our own increasingly Mechanistic/Technological Life-Styles.
Most have raved about the ingenuities of the text, highlighting the Depressive-Life of Mr. Zero [Joel Hatch], a By-the-numbers Accountant who is replaced by an Adding-Machine, to his despair & anger, leading him to Commit Murder!
[This also occurs in Unconditional, now at the Public Theatre, as a Black Man is laid-off by the White Personnel-Surrogate of a Conglomerate, but they don't sing about it. The Black Lynches the White!]]
Joshua Schmidt's fascinating score has also been highly praised for its powerful underscoring of the libretto he & Jason Loewith have crafted from Rice's own vision of Futuristic-Despair.
But what has been overlooked in most critiques is how remarkably the designers have suggested the Expressionistic-Vision of Rice's times. The severely-spare scenes are a marvel of Mechanistic Art-Deco, splendidly trumped by a Final-Scene right out of Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times. This is a show that has to be Looked-At, as well as Listened-To!
David Cromer directed a strong cast, including Cyrilla Baer as a shrewish Mrs. Zero, Amy Warren as Daisy, Daniel Marcus & Niffer Clark as Mr. & Mrs. One, & Jeff Still as Charles.
Do Catch Ben Katchor's Catchy Cartoonish-Critique!
Not only did I make a point of seeing The Slug-Bearers of Kayrol Island because it is essentially cartoonist Ben Katchor's Socio-Cultural Satiric-View of Modern-America, but also because it so ingeniously uses Animations of Katchor's Design-Signature: bright splashes of basic-colors, flooding over bold black-outlines, depicting the Architectural & Advertising Horrors of Our Place & Time.
If you missed Katchor's stunning show at the Jewish Museum, you can savor his wit & artistry every month in Metropolis, where he regularly has the final text-page for his own. Or try the Jewish Daily Forward.
Or—best of all—rush down to the Vineyard Theatre for his Off-Beat-Vision of New Yorkers being moved by the plight of the virtually-enslaved Slug-Bearers on Kayrol Island, way out in the Pacific.
These Unfortunate-Ethnics carry heavy lead-slugs on their shoulders to the ship—named the ENVY—which will bring the slugs to the factories that manufacture light-weight appliances such as Phone-Receivers & Blenders. Electronic-technology having replaced the old Alexander Graham Bell Circuitry, it has become necessary to conceal lead-slugs inside the receivers to give them a desired "heft."
Among the many "Friends of Dr. Rushover"—which is the musical's sub-title—is a quintessential Katchor-Character, Immanuel Lubang [Bobby Steggart]. He collects old Manuals for obsolete Household-Appliances & savors their texts as a kind of Poetry: Consumer-Fictions, he calls these Print-Artifacts!
Dr. Rushower [Peter Friedman]—who is deeply involved in Modern-Technology & has an Unmarried-Daughter—sends Immanuel & his dear child off to Kayrol Island to offer a series of Readings from Immanuel's Manuals. Well, as the New Yorkers have already been told—& for the benefit of future-audiences—"They are not like us."
Mark Mulcahy has created the catchy music for Katchor's lyrics. This is a Visual-Astonishment, rather different from the Seuratian-Digital-Animations of Sunday in the Park with George—not to be missed by anyone on the Cutting-Edge of New American Musicals, Animated-Stage-Design, & Cultural-Satire.
Katchor is interested in American-Occupations most of us haven't yet heard about. If he hasn't done a cartoon-series on The Ear-Wax Inspector, he certainly should do so!
Of course, this is not a show for Everyone: some Conservatives could be offended by having their Taste & Possessions mocked Visually & in Song!.
But I must be on Katchor's Wave-Length because, on the way to the Vineyard, I wondered why he hadn't named his show The Slug Bearers of Ulan Bator? In the first scene, there it was: Ulan Bator Café!
Can Dead Boys Sing?
Next To Normal makes an Unlikely-Musical out of a distraught wife & mother's Epic-Depression. Her Son died in Infancy, but he is still very much around, now about sixteen-years-old, also singing.
Of course, his Sister & Father cannot see him, although his Presence in his mother's mind has destroyed much of their Sense-of-Family. Mom cannot let go, even though she has a Sexy-Therapist, who also sings!
Amazingly, this is a very effective & affective entertainment. It is to move from 2econd Stage, to reach a wider audience. Book & Lyrics by Brian Yorkey, with score by Tom Kitt! Really strong stuff, staged by Michael Greif, of Rent fame.
As for Disney's The Little Mermaid, as with the initial film-animation, it is a Long Way Off from Hans Christian Andersen. That wounded old Melancholy-Dane might well have died of a Seizure on seeing either the film or the Broadway-Musical, were he not already dead.
Nonetheless, this colorful, dazzling show, full of technical-Wonders, is Good Family-Entertainment! You won't find any Mamet F-words in the Ashman-Slater lyrics; the tunes of Alan Menken are now Old-Favorites.
Doug Wright is responsible for the Post-Andersenian-Book, with previous credits such as Quills, I Am My Own Wife, & Grey-Gardens!
The amazing Francesca Zambello—noted in Europe for Avant-Garde Opera-Productions—brings a Post-Modernist Musik-Theater Sensibility to Disney's Mer-World, with Dancing Lobsters & Singing-Clams.
Sierra Bogess is Ariel, the Mermaid of the title, with Tituss Burgess as Sebastian. Bogess/Burgess: what's in a name… Norm Lewis is King Triton, with John Treacy Egan as a Politically-Incorrect-Stereotype of an Italian-Chef. Or is he supposed to be French…
Sherie Rene Scott was fearsome as the Evil-Octopussy Ursula, while her ex-husband, Norbert Leo Butz, was cavorting in a Victorian-frock over at the Lyceum Theatre, in Is He Dead?
For those who—like Your Scribe—missed the Original-Mermaid-Movie, watch the DVD before you see this show. You may marvel even more at how effectively the Animations have been translated to the stage, even though many Special-Effects cannot be achieved Live-on-Stage.
Even more interesting on the two-disk DVD are the Back-Up-Materials, showing how the film was created & what had been going on backstage at the Disney Studios!
Old Musicals in Revival:
TAKE ME ALONG [***]
SUNDAY IN THE PARK WITH GEORGE [*****]
Long, long ago, when Your Reporter heard that someone was planning to turn Eugene O'Neill's only comedy, Ah, Wilderness!, into a Broadway-Musical, I thought it could not be done. At least not without destroying the special wistfulness & nostalgia for a family that Gene O'Neill never had: the Family-Flip-Side of A Long Days' Journey into Night…
In the event, I thought I was not mistaken. Had it not been for the presence of Jackie Gleason, the show would not have run as long as it did. Nonetheless, the title-song of Take Me Along has proven durable, and I Would Die remains a charmer.
But it has taken a very long time for Bob Merrill's tunes to be back on stage, with Joe Stein & Robert Russell's book & lyrics. The Irish Rep's resourceful Charlotte Moore has staged the show effectively in the Rep's confined-space, with a wonderfully colorful Evocation of a New-England Small-Town engulfing the walls, thanks to designer James Morgan.
Neither Ah, Wilderness!—a quote from The Rubayat of Omar Khayam, by the literature-infatuated Richard Miller, an O'Neill Alter-Ego—nor its musical-version suggests that Uncle Sid's Drinking-Problem might have something to do, not only with a kind of Self-Loathing, but with a fear of having to Perform with a Female-Partner. In those days, American playwrights avoided that subject.
Sweet Sounds of Steve Sondheim!
Years ago, when I unwisely suggested that the First Acts of Sunday in the Park with George & Into the Woods would make a Dynamite Evening-of-Theatre, I succeeded only in terminating the previous generosity Steve Sondheim had shown me, coming to my CUNY Grad Center Seminars in Music-Theatre to discuss his wonderful works.
Despite the Visual-Brilliance of the current Sunday revival—now on Broadway, replicated from the Hit London staging by Sam Buntrock—James Lapine's second-act still seems an add-on, something designed to make a full-evening.
But Sondheim's astounding Score—combined with Lapine's ingenuity in making a story of Georges Seurat's all-too-brief Life—are reasons enough to make a pilgrimage to Studio 54. But an even more impressive reason for rushing out to buy tix is the projected Digital-Design of Tim Bird & The Knifedge Creative Network.
The original Broadway production was also a design-breakthrough, in the way that it incorporated elements of Seurat's most famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte, into the staging. The new staging's digital-designs not only reference other Seurat canvases, but also make them move on the three white walls of the set, designed by David Farley.
Outstanding in the current ensemble are the monomaniacal Georges of Daniel Evans & the frustrated Dot of the multi-talented Jenna Russell. When Sunday premiered, all those seasons ago, the acerbic critic John Simon protested her name, because Dot was, in fact, what the French called a young-bride's Dowery…
Other Entertainments/Other Venues:
Four Nights at the Metropolitan Opera
Benjamin Britten's PETER GRIMES [***]
Engelbert Humperdinck's HANSEN & GRETEL [****]
Giacomo Puccini's MANON LESCAUT [****]
Richard Wagner's DIE WALKÜRE [****]
Benjamin Britten's Peter Grimes—just given a new staging at the Metropolitan Opera—is regarded by many experts as his Crowning-Achievement in Music-Drama. Certainly his subtly-magnificent, musically-multi-faceted score is a Triumph.
But for psychological-power & dramatic-effect, Your Scribe is more partial to Britten's Turn of the Screw & Death in Venice.
Perhaps it was the baneful influence of George Crabbe's vintage-poem, The Borough, that inspired Britten's librettist, Montagu Slater, to craft commentaries from these Borough-Villagers of 1830 that sound at times awkward, even crochtety. Spoken-aloud, they are quirky enough, but sung to Britten's settings, some of these outbursts are almost risible.
And there are a few scenes involving some lusty Male-Villagers & the "Nieces" of the genial Lady-Pub-Keeper that would be more in keeping with the lively mood of Britten's comic-opera, Albert Herring.
They are surely included for Local-Color, to give a broader view of the Elemental-Natures of the Seaside-Villagers who turn against Peter Grimes—already an infamous Outsider—who is believed to abuse his Boy-Apprentices.
And not without cause: The opera opens with an Inquest on the death-at-sea of Grimes' most recent apprentice. Effectually-acquitted by the Local-Coroner, he is later shown out-of-control, hitting & humiliating the orphan-lad he has just got from the Workhouse.
Shades of Charles Dickens! This is essentially a Powerful, even Tragic-Tale, but Slater's Dramaturgy dulls its potential-effect. Peter Grimes is no towering Tragic-Hero: in fact, he is a seriously deluded & troubled seafarer.
But, as in Arthur Miller's view of Tragedy & the Common-Man, Peter Grimes' Life & Torment demand some Attention & even Empathy. This pathetic Outcry to the audience is certainly there in the music & in Peter's doomed-relationship with the Village-Schoolteacher, the lonely widow, Ellen Orford…
In the Met's new production, both these long-suffering characters are passionately portrayed by the admirable Anthony Dean Griffey & the wonderful Patricia Racette! They stand out from the acres of black-clad Villager-Choristers who line the stage like New-Yorkers waiting for the No. 7 Subway.
Griffey is a large man, but he has a marvelously-liquid-tenor & can be both brutish & helplessly Vulnerable. I first encountered him at the Bregenz Festival, when he was an affecting Lenny in the operatic-version of John Steinbeck's Of Mice & Men.
He repeated the role when the Austrian production came to Lincoln Center for the New York City Opera.
[In Bregenz, Your Scribe gave a slide-lecture with his INFOTOGRAPHY™ photos of Steinbeck-Country, relating the Salinas-Area to the Mice & Men libretto, as part of the Festival Opera-Workshop, where he was able to talk to Griffey.]
So it was a great pleasure to see Griffey finally dominate the great stage of the Metropolitan Opera in such a challenging-role!
Unfortunately, there is a Problem with this new staging by John Doyle, who burst into Directorial-Prominence in Manhattan with his London productions of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd & Company.
Both of those Revivals were performed in fairly intimate-spaces, with the positioning of the players fairly Static. The Met-Stage is immense, wide & deep—and Miles to go before you fall asleep…
But John Doyle & his usually brilliant set-designer, Scott Pask, have deliberately avoided—even voided—the vast spaces of the Met's potential Playing-Areas.
What the Audience sees—almost without Remission—is an immense dark-brown wooden-wall, pocked with small window-hatches & doorways. When black-clad singers are standing in all the Open-Apertures, this looks like a Giant-Singing-Advent-Calendar, but with No Merry-Christmas waiting in the next unopened window.
Even though this Forbidding-Façade can be moved upstage somewhat, it still has the effect of pushing the massive black-crow-clad Met-Chorus downstage in ranks, rather than files. Thus, it is difficult for the Principals to stand out in all this Visual-Clutter.
When viewers need to enter Peter Grimes' gloomy hut, more looming East-Sussex Oast-Houses scoot-out from either side downstage. Not a great Visual-Improvement…
But the Worst of it—with an obviously expensive & massive set-piece like this, which cannot easily be replaced, or even Re-Thought—is that Britten's remarkable Symphonic-Interludes, evoking the Coast & Sea, as well as the Village & the glowing Nature in which it exists, are played almost in Darkness, with lights down on that Great Wall of Aldeburgh!
My Good-Fortune has been to see a variety of stagings of Peter Grimes, two of them at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, where I was once able to interview one of the most affecting Grimes, Jon Vickers.
What has always worked best—especially for the Interludes—has been an evocation of the Village & its Surroundings, whether Realistic, or Impressionistic. The Stage-Lighting can then play over the Shapes & Surfaces, suggesting Storms & Calms, Sunrises & Sunsets, Flights of Birds…
A Village with some rising & falling roads & paths—rather than showing some Choristers cramped in window-cubby-holes—would make the Massive-Chorus seem less like a Threatening Black-Phalanx, lined up to attack the Spectators…
Britten's Peter Grimes is not only a powerful drama of an Outsider, but it is also a magnificent Choral & Orchestral Achievement—which Donald Runnicles conducted magisterially. But it needs a different Stage-Vision than this one.
[Do not hold your breath for a Met-Production of Britten's Owen Wingrave: it bombed at Covent Garden many years ago, although I found boxes of the programs in the alley outside the Royal Opera two days after it was withdrawn. Some are in the Glenn Loney Papers at the University of California… Also do not look for On Wenlock Edge anytime soon.]
Hungry-Hansel & Greedy-Gretel at the Met!
The Met's new Hansel & Gretel proved much more effective than this grim Grimes. But its composer, Engelbert Humperdinck, might have found it a bit difficult to identify as the libretto he had set to by-now-all-too-familiar music.
Some Met Old-Timers were also grumbling—even in the Intermission, but certainly afterward—about the production's signal-failure to show us the Scenes-as-Written & a Gingerbread-House that looked just like the ones you see in Fairytale-books.
Although this ancient Teutonic Cautionary-Tale is essentially about Abandonment & Child-Abuse, director Richard Jones & his designer, John Macfarlane, opted for images of Hunger & Greed: the Kids can't wait to Gorge Themselves!
The Grand Banquet-Scene, with its Parade-of-Chefs, bearing elaborate dishes, was stunning. Indeed, most of the Visual-Effects served this New-View of the opera very well. It should become a Holiday-Staple for many seasons to come!
The Bregenz Festival's Intendant, David Pountney, provided a new English-Translation which effectively made the story more Brit than Grimm. Alice Coote, as Hansel, & Christine Schäfer, as Gretel, were a childish-delight. Adam Klein was an admirable Witch-Replacement for an indisposed Philip Langridge. Conductor Vladimir Jurowski brought a sense of fun to the proceedings as well.
Nonetheless, I still long to see a really Revisionist production of Hansel & Gretel, which goes back to the Roots of the Essential Germanic Grimmness of the Original-Folktale, as recorded by the Ethnologically-Inclined Bros. Grimm.
The Core of the Horror with which Generations—if not Centuries—of German-Children were threatened is being Baked-Alive in a Monster-Oven!
Having once taught English-Comp for the US Army in a former Nazi-classroom on the other side of the wall from the Crematory-Ovens in Dachau, even then I couldn't avoid thinking of the Mythical-Precedent for these Fascist-Horrors in that Beloved Old Familiar German-Fairytale…
How about a trendy EuroTrash production of Hansel & Gretel in Auschwitz?
Is this an Opera-Vision Quentin Tarrantino could make a shuddering Reality? Or should he even try?
Pretty Little Manon in a Rosenkavalier Bed-Chamber?
What I like most about the Met's fusty old production of Giacomo Puccini's Manon Lescaut is the Second-Act-scene in Manon's lavish Bed-Chamber, where she has become the aging roué Geronte's flighty young Mistress.
As designed by Desmond Heeley, it is not only heavy—but also possibly Overweight—with Baroque & Rococo Detailings. It is even more ostentatiously-splendid than the most outrageous Vienna, Dresden, or Munich bedchamber for Richard Strauss' Marschallin.
Even the Initial-Act's setting in a humble Coaching-Inn has its own splendors: A real 18th Century Coach arrives, drawn by Real Horses! They stop offstage-left, so they can be unhitched & returned to the stables, as the doomed Manon & her lover, Des Grieux, will not need them in the final scene, the Deserts of Louisiana, [Forget about FEMA: this opera occurs long before Hurricane-Katrina!]
I have long been an admirer of Desmond Heeley—we were both adopted-orphans!—having done an extensive profile on him & his Design-Exploits years ago for the late, lamented Theatre-Crafts. But I doubt he would today design Manon Lescaut in this way.
Tastes have changed among knowledgeable Opera-Goers—even at the Met, where the massively Over-Detailed-Splendor of sets & costumes by Franco Zeffirelli was once the Hallmark of Met Opera Productions. [Franco has, by the way, just been retained by the Vatican, to burnish or improve the Image of the current Occupant of St. Peter's Chair, former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger!]
James Levine conducted this Manon performance, as usual, magisterially, working with what he has transformed into one of the greatest opera-orchestras in the world!
Some critics were somewhat dismissive of the acting-abilities of Karita Mattila, as Manon. For some, she was simply too old to play this shallow, greedy, kittenish young Minx, essentially whored by her ambitious brother [Dwayne Croft], despite her initial-love for the young Chevalier des Grieux [Marcello Giordani], who has abducted her, both from a parentally-planned Life in a Convent & the clutches of the lecherous old Gironte [Dale Travis].
Even if Matilla was not Linday-Lohanesque enough for some, I found her character-interpretation both maddening & affecting. It was certainly a musical-gift to hear her interpret Puccini's vision of Manon's Whims & Passions.
It would be interesting to see this Met Manon Lescaut in tandem with Massenet's Manon. With the same singers in Abbé Prevost's tale, as variously-adapted by Puccini & Massenet's librettists…
[Not to overlook the possibility of seeing a powerful production of Edith Wharton's own adaptation of Manon Lescaut, which has never been staged! Mrs. Wharton was commissioned by the famed English stage-star, Marie Tempest, to make an acting-version.
[But when Mrs. Wharton brought it to Mme. Tempest in her London dressing-room, she dismissed it, saying she was "no longer doing Costume-Dramas!'
[Your Scribe has a photo-copy of Mrs. Whjarton's original, as well as a copy of Mrs. Patrick Campbell's prompt-script for Edith Wharton's The Joy of Living, adapted from Sudermann's German-original, Es Lebe das Leben!
[I had planned a three-volume Theatre of Edith Wharton, partly to give one of our most important American-Novelists posthumous-access to the Second-Career she never enjoyed: Playwright!
But Yale University Press was not impressed with the proposal, so only the first volume was published—by The Associated University Presses, not Yale—as The Play of The House of Mirth, edited by Your Archivist-Editor…]
Welcoming Wagner's Walküre!
The Met is going to offer the Complete-Ring at the end of this season. In preparation, Wagner's Die Walküre has just been taken out of storage. Loren Maazel—just before his triumphal-visits to Beijing & North Korea with the NY Philharmonic—gave this demanding score a powerful reading.
The wondrously-slimmed Deborah Voigt was tremendously affecting as Sieglinde, with Clifton Forbes as a vibrant young Siegmund! Lisa Gasteen is not quite there yet, as Brünnhilde, but Michelle DeYoung was formidable as Fricka. Even the venerable James Morris was imposing as Wotan: age does not wither him…
What most impressed me, however, was the freshness of the performances & character-interactions. Even though this powerful story of the Dawning of Love—Incest, at that!—was unfolding in the storage-worn old sets of Günther Schneider-Seimssen, in Otto Schenk's conventional staging, it was, for me, the Illusion of the First-Time! Wonderful!
[You can also see this Met/Schenk/Schneider-Seimssen production at the Teatr Wielki in Warsaw. It was the Poles' first-ever Complete-Ring, paid for by West-Germany, before the Berlin-Wall came tumbling down…]
At the New York Theatre Workshop:
Jessica Blank & April Yvette Thompson's LIBERTY CITY [****]
April Thompson is amazing, reliving the Race-Riots in Miami's ironically-named Liberty City, as well as the years that led up to them—especially as a child of ardent Social-Revolutionaries—& the depressing Aftermath of these self-defeating Outbursts of Outrage.
Working with director Jessica Blank, she has shaped her own story—complete with Relatives & Neighbors, whom she instantly creates onstage, with the slightest change of Body-Language & Accent—to bring shabby streets, desperate situations, & seething angers to Vibrant Life.
April Yvette Thompson is a multi-talented Monologist every bit as compelling as Sarah Jones & Anna Deveare Smith! This show should be seen widely!
At the New Victory Theatre:
Annie Siddon's RAPUNZEL [****]
Brits on a Rampage—with Stringed-Instruments—cannot begin to describe the Lively-Wonders of this entirely New-Vision of the old fairytale, Rapunzel.
For Starters, the formerly Golden-haired Rapunzel—found as an abandoned-baby, under a Rapunzel-Plant—now has long, long Black-Hair! But it's still a pain in the neck when her Herbalist-Foster-Mother climbs up her long braids into the Tower in which she has confined her adoptive-daughter to keep her safe from Wandering-Princes…
What's more, Rapunzel is befriended by a Wild-Boar, as several other Fairytale-Elements are folded into this charming story of Pluck & Luck & True-Love.
Among the String-instruments arrayed on the raised center-stage-rostrum—played by cast-members in goggles & coveralls, like stage-technicians, which they occasionally were—I saw a Mandolin, a Banjo, a Bandolino, a Bass, an Irish-harp, a Zither, a Cembalo, Guitars, as well as an Accordion, for balance…
Among the excellent—& often Acrobatic—performers, Paul Hunter stood out with his Vintage British-Music-Hall Shtik. This is a wonderfully Interactive show, great for both Parents & Kids. It comes to us from London's Battersea Arts Center & the Kneehigh Theatre. It should tour all over the place, if it is not already booked…
At the Ontological [Hysterical] Theatre:
DEEP TRANCE BEHAVIOR IN POTATOLAND (ENGLAND, JAPAN, & NEW YORK)
If Richard Foreman's deliberately Robotic-Performers were really in Deep-Trances when they Go-Through the Potatoland-Motions in his Annual-Ontological-Explorations, they would not have the Time nor the Occasion to Observe their Audiences.
When I arrived at the Top of the Stairs & the entrance to the Ontological-Theatre, at St. Mark's Church in the Bouwerie, I was welcomed by Shannon, who cautioned me that the Players had been very upset the Previous-Spring when they saw my "Playing with my Bag," which seriously distracted them during their Ritual-Movements.
This astounded me, as I have Better-Things to do in the theatre—one could always Fall-Asleep!—than fuss around with my Shoulder-Bag, which, once I have extracted my Distance-Glasses, I leave on the floor, under the seat. I never waste my time rooting-around in my bag, as some ladies do with their Purses…
I was also surprised that I had been picked-out for Contumely. I was certainly, in all these Foreman-Ontological-Years, never conscious of creating a Visual-Disturbance. Unintentionally, or Otherwise…
This past season, however, a guy who had been perching on the aisle-steps loped over me to occupy the Third-Seat-In. He did have his bag in his lap & he was using it to shield his large Black-Digital-Camera, with which he was photographing the Ontological-Action, such as it was, in-Progress!
This is an Absolute Theatre-No-No! [Although Cell-Phone-Users are sneaking shots on Broadway & at the Metropolitan-Opera all the time now…]
So, if Foreman's Players were looking at Our-Row, I hope they know the difference between Your Scribe & tall guys with Black Digital-Cameras. Unless, of course, he was a Foreman-Friend, commissioned to take Production-Photos?
Several Mainstream-Drama-Critics have written warmly of Deep Trance Behavior, especially noting what they regarded as Foreman's improved-fusion of his Video-Imagery with the stage-action down below the two upstage-screens.
In fact, this Impression may have been created because there was relatively little forestage-action of Major-Interest—in comparison with previous-seasons—to distract from the fairly Uninteresting-Video-Posings. There was a King-Mockingbird Body-Mask that shuffled-on from time to time, but little else as Astonishingly-Mysteriously-Outrageous as in earlier visits to Potatoland.
The Newfound-Sense of Integration of Live-Action & Dead-Video may have been induced by having the Performers look-up at the Videos, as if inviting the Audience to do Likewise.
Foreman—who modestly credits himself, as usual, as Writer, Director, Designer, as well as Sound-Score (Stage & Film)—notes, in a program-insert, that he has been making theatre since he "was 9 years old--"
Foreman is now Age 70, as he reveals in his note, but he is having difficulties in using theatre as an "arena in which to develop the laboratory-like work" that obsesses him. It would seem that "the slow hypnotism of tableau-based film" has "semi-erased" the "3-dimensional arena of performance."
Well, Your Scribe is Age 79—& Counting—but he does not foresee, as Foreman hopes, "theatre dissolving itself in the 'acid-bath' of film, hopefully revealing beneath, the skeleton-support of consciousness itself. (Not theatre, not film.)"
With Videos like these, we are not On-Track. We are even A Long Way Off from Potatoland…
At Carnegie's Weill Recital-Hall
Weill Hall is a small but handsome Beaux-Arts performance-venue, with good acoustics, so instrumental & vocal sounds are always bright & clear. But its attractively-spare stage might have used one of those impressive Pre-Raphaelite paintings by Rossetti or Millais, to highlight the recent Pre-Raphaelite Music-Program.
Not that actual Period-Compositions were revived. But this Victorian-Movement of Back-to-Nature Pre-Renaissance Truth-Seekers provided the Inspiration for such interesting works as the World-Premiere of Frank Brickle's setting of The Creation: A Towneley Mystery Play.
Also performed were musical evocations of John Ruskin & Ezra Pound, closing with a hypnotic rendering of Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint. You may not think of Reich as a Pre-Raphaelite, but there he was, being plucked-away by a multitude of guitars, lutes, & what-have-you.
Though philosophically-eclectic, the entire program was both challenging & rewarding, especially for showcasing the talents of a number of younger musicians. Notable were the singers: Haleh Abghari, Liana Stillman, & Nehemiah Luckett!
Only a week before The Creation, Your Scribe had the pleasure of hearing young baritone Thomas Meglioranza's solo-concert in Weill Hall. A Naumburg Foundation Award-winner, Meglioranza cheerfully shared a Cabaret-program of "Songs of Decadence."
There was no Kurt Weill, so the event was not quite as Decadent as it might have been. Nonetheless, Marc Blitzstein, William Bolcom, Joseph Kosma, & Leonard Bernstein offered this talented young performer their best. Arnold Schoenberg & Benjamin Britten were also not out-of-place in this lively company!
E-Mail from Stockholm: Swedish Plays & Playwrights!
Way back when a Eurail-Pass—Second-Class, of course—cost only $300 for three whole months, Your Scribe was a regular at Theatre & Music-Festivals all over Scandinavia. Stockholm & Copenhagen were regular-stops, as I had friends in the Performing-Arts—with spare-rooms or empty-sofas—who were always glad to see me with news of what was happening in New York.
My Good-Fortune was to interview many famed talents in Scandinavia, including Ingmar Bergman. Not to overlook wonderful performances at the Aarhus Festival, the Strindberg Festival in Uppsala, Petrus de Dacia on the island of Gotland, the Copenhagen & Stockholm Festivals, Tampere in Finnland, as well as Theatre-Adventures in Malmø, Helsingførs, Elsinore, &&&&&&&&
Unfortunately, now that the Dollar is almost Worthless, I can no longer afford to go my beloved Stockholm.
Nonetheless, Someone has not forgotten me. I have just received the following E-mail which I must share with readers, who can pass the Info onward:
Since you have written so nicely about Swedish Drama & Playwrights, I need to tell you about our drama-bank on the Internet. Today, after ten years, we have over 940 plays & translations in DramaDirectory, free for download for professional-theatres, producers, dramaturgists, & translators!
Do have a look at http://www.dramadirectory.com
Most welcome! And if you like, tell others about us!
Karin Höikby, Project-Leader, DramaDirectory
Swedish Playwrights Union
Blå Tornet, Drottningatan 85/SE 11160 Stockholm/Sweden
[Thank You, Karin! What a wonderful achievement & service! Are there Other Nations out there on the Internet with similar playlists & theatre-services?
[The street-address of the Playwrights-Union reminds me of yet another unforgettable Music-Theatre-Experience: The Drottningholm Court-Theatre Opera-Festival!
[Even more impressive with King Carl-Gustav & Queen Silvia sitting in front in the Royal-Chairs! After all, this theatre was specially-constructed as a gift for Queen Amalia, who was the sister of Wilhelmina, Margravine of Bayreuth, who had her own Court-Theatre. As did the Royal-Sisters' brother, Frederic the Great: You can still enjoy performances in his Sans-Souci Court-Theatre in Potsdam. As well as in Bayreuth & Drottningholm, just outside Stockholm, only a boat-ride away!
[Drottning means Queen, by the way. My Swedish is now somewhat rusty, but I think King is Kongen? Think King-Kong?]
At the CUNY Grad Center Martin E. Segal Theatre:
DREAMING THE AMERICAS/
THE BODY POLITIC IN PERFORMANCE
As a Professor of Theatre Emeritus at the CUNY Grad Center, I should be sharing more with readers about the impressive—free—programs being offered at the Martin E. Segal Center, in what used to be B. Altman's. [We also have challenging Cutting-Edge art-exhibits in our Art-Gallery!]
Recently, Caridad Svich initiated the NoPassport Conference, in which a variety of pressing Social & Political Issues—which can be addressed by Theatre-works & Performances—were examined. She opened the sessions with Healing the Body-Politic.
From NYU's Gallatin School, Stephen Duncombe raised some important questions: But Does It Work? Thinking about Efficacy in Political-Art. He suggested there is such a thing as Bad-Art, but he didn't mean all the stuff now on exhibit over at the Whitney Biennial.
Think About It: How many Plays—not to mention Operas, Ballets, & Monologues—have actually helped Change the Course of History? War & Peace? Has George Bush ever read it? Vlad Putin, probably, but it seems to have had No-Effect…
The panel on Theatre & Social-Justice included playwrights JT Rogers—Madagascar & The Overwhelming—as well as Erik Ehn, Betty Shamieh, Susana Cook, Catherine Filloux, & Amparo Garcia-Crow, who heads Austin's new $16-million Mexican-American Cultural-Center.
Other challenging panels included: Making Theatre in Mad Times; Narrative Connections: Dramaturgy, Design, & New-Technologies—featuring Ping Chong & Sunday in the Park with George Digitals; Reconfiguring the Classics in New Writing—including Your Scribe's former MA student, playwright/dramaturg Chiori Michigawa, & Translation on Deck: Intercultural Negotiations, plus four more compelling panels!
For more Info on the on-going Theatre-Programs at the Segal Center—excellently designed & presented by the admirable Dr. Frank Hentschker—log-on to: http://web.gc.cuny.ed.mestc. MESTC is the Anagram for the Center, OK?
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